Kristian Winfield: Almost doesn’t count for Becky Hammon, Chauncey Billups or the Trail Blazers

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The Portland Trail Blazers chose not to hire Becky Hammon as their next head coach. Instead, they hired Chauncey Billups, who was allegedly involved in a rape incident in 1997 and settled the case out of court. The optics are terrible. The Trail Blazers somehow made it worse.

Billups had a chance to explain himself at his introductory press conference on Tuesday, and he said the incident in 1997 shaped the rest of his life “in unbelievable ways.” Any good reporter would have a follow-up, and The Athletic’s Jason Quick asked Billups a simple question: How? How did the incident shape your life?

Trail Blazers PR wasn’t having it and cut the question off.

“We’ve addressed this,” said the team’s spokesperson. “It’s been asked and answered.”

The details surrounding Billups’ alleged gang-rape case are repulsive, so repulsive he should stand there as a man and address every question local and national media has to ask. It was a cringe-worthy moment from a Trail Blazers staff that had already made a questionable hire.

When asked about Hammon, though, there was no interruption.

“We obviously admire Becky. She did a great job,” said Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey, who is a former actor. “Making it as far as the owner in the process isn’t easy. She made it all the way to the ownership level, which is an endorsement.”

The endorsement would have been to hire the first-ever woman NBA head coach, not pat her on the back for a job well done, but not done well enough.

The day before the presser, the Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer wrote the Trail Blazers didn’t like what they heard about Hammon from league sources.

“When Portland reached out to San Antonio figures, the intel was not nearly as complimentary pertaining to various aspects of day-to-day coaching responsibilities,” he wrote. “That sentiment was echoed by sources around the league.”

Hammon’s day will come and eventually a franchise will hire her to lead an NBA team. That day is not today. It’s unclear when it will be.

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